Tributes pour in for Mama Winnie as nation mourns struggle stalwart

02 April 2018 - 18:45 By Timeslive
Winnie Madikizela–Mandela speaks with Archbishop Desmond Tutu during the memorial service of former president Nelson Mandela at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg on December 10, 2013.
Winnie Madikizela–Mandela speaks with Archbishop Desmond Tutu during the memorial service of former president Nelson Mandela at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg on December 10, 2013.
Image: ALEXANDER JOE / AFP

Political parties and close friends of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela joined the chorus of praise for the struggle stalwart who died on Monday afternoon at the age of 81. 

On Monday afternoon‚ the world was shocked to learn that Madikizela-Mandela passed away at the Netcare Milpark Hospital. The 81-year-old had been in and out of hospital since January with what a spokesman at the time said was a kidney infection.

Nobel peace laureate and archbishop emeritus Desmond Tutu described Madikizela-Mandela as having for many years been the defining symbol of the struggle against apartheid.

“She refused to be bowed by the imprisonment of her husband‚ the perpetual harassment of her family by security forces‚ detentions‚ bannings and banishment. Her courageous defiance was deeply inspirational to me‚ and to generations of activists.

“Leah and I send our heartfelt condolences to her daughters‚ grandchildren and extended family. May she rest in peace and rise in glory‚” Tutu said in a statement.

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela‚ a stalwart in the fight against apartheid‚ died on Monday April 2 2018 in Johannesburg at the age of 81 following a “long illness”, her family said.

'Voice of defiance'

President Cyril Ramaphosa said she was a “voice of defiance” against white-minority rule.

“Winnie was a voice of defiance and resistance. In the face of exploitation, she was a champion of justice and equality,” he said in a televised address, adding that she “was an abiding symbol of the desire of our people to be free“.

'Mother of the nation'

The Nelson Mandela Foundation, describing her as “the mother of the nation”‚ said: “The struggle could never have been what it became without the undying zeal and passion of Mam' Winnie‚ both for the country and our people. The Mandela name we revere today was kept alive by her through the most difficult times. As a woman she kept the family and the hopes of all black people alive. It's a very sad loss to women emancipation.”

Social media users paid tribute to the South African anti-apartheid activist.

They described her passing as a blow for the foundation.

“She travelled a very long road together with our founder‚ Nelson Mandela. She was a member of a generation of leaders which survived the most brutal period of state terror in apartheid South Africa. And she was a friend of the foundation.

“All South Africans are indebted to Mama Winnie‚ whether they acknowledge it or not. From the witness of her life‚ we knew we could stand tall; we knew also we could falter and stumble. Either condition was an affirmation of life. Her cry was our cry‚ and in 2018 we can say we did triumph‚” said foundation chairperson Professor Njabulo Ndebele.

Prolific woman

The ANC Women’s League (ANCWL) also paid tribute to Madikizela-Mandela‚ calling her a as prolific woman who could never be forgotten.

“The epitome of the struggle against inequalities‚ unemployment and poverty is no more. One of the prolific women leaders our country has had is gone but will never be forgotten. She will forever remain one of the astounding activists and embodiment of ANCWL values that we will always refer to in the struggle against emancipation of women.

“She will forever remain an encouraging figure in the fight against patriarchy and male chauvinism in and outside politics‚” the league said in its official statement.

The ANCWL said Madikizela-Mandela endured physical and emotional torture under the apartheid regime and never thought of quitting the struggle to follow her career as a professional social worker.

“Because of her love of the people she remained committed to the struggle for better live for all until her last day on earth. The ANCWL takes this moment to send our deepest and most heartfelt condolences to both the Madikizela and the Mandela families.

"We take this moment to send our deepest and most heartfelt condolences to both the Madikizela and Mandela families as we mourn the mother of the ANCWL who led the ANCWL during the most difficult times of our country and ANC most trying times of our country when all the odds were against her‚” the league said.

Mama Winnie proved that women could lead

The Pan Africanist Congress of Azania (PAC) said that the late struggle activist proved to the world that women could lead in all spaces they found themselves.

“Mama Winnie has proven beyond our continent that women can lead not only their families but in the entire society in various frays‚ especially in politics which usually is dominated by powerful‚ rich males. Mama Winnie was the bedrock of her family when her husband was imprisoned with many of our comrades into Robben Island. She remained in that distant marriage and became the pillar of her family for 27 years‚” said the PAC’s spokesperson‚ Kenneth Mokgatlhe.

Mokgatlhe said the party saluted Mama Winnie for all the she achieved.

“Women must emulate her by ensuring that they become role players not only in politics but in other societal areas such as the economy‚ religion and others‚” he said.

Represented the struggle of the black woman

The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation said Madikizela-Mandela “shared a strong sense of camaraderie and friendship that extended from before Kathrada’s imprisonment‚ when he became close to both the Sisulu and Mandela families”.

“For the broader South African public‚ Comrade Winnie became an iconic symbol against apartheid‚ and especially so at a time when the ANC and other liberation organisations were almost crushed. Her militancy‚ courage and defiance kept the struggle against apartheid alive.

"In particular‚ she came to represent the struggle of black women against a system that saw them bearing the burden of a repressive regime. She inspired not only activists of her own generation‚ but those that succeeded her as well‚” said the foundation’s chairperson Derek Hanekom.

The ANC in Gauteng said Madikizela-Mandela provided council to it whenever it was needed.

“Mama Winnie‚ who was a long-standing member of the ANC’s Ward 39 branch in Orlando West‚ Soweto‚ was such a person‚ who from time to time‚ offered counsel on some of the pressing issues confronting us as we pursued the National Democratic Society envisioned by the founding fathers and mothers of our liberation movement.

“Our deepest condolences to the Madikizela and Mandela family for this loss. The nation mourns with you. The nations celebrates with you. Mama Winnie’s was a life well lived in the service of the people‚” the party said in a statement.

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